MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - For the first time ever, the family robbed by gun point and shot at during their Black Friday shopping trip in Myrtle Beach is speaking out.
The night of the shooting outside a Myrtle Beach area Walmart, the Robbins family followed simple common-sense steps.
They parked in a well lit section of the parking lot. They walked with a group. If there's anything we learn from them, it is that no plan is fool proof, and they hope their story is a wake up call for everyone who hears it.
It was just after 1 a.m. on Black Friday 2011 when a decades old family tradition for the Robbins was halted in its tracks.
Tonia Robbins recalls in detail what happened that night, "We were in that parking lot when I felt just a slight tug on my pocket book strap, and I just felt strange because there was no one behind me and when I turned he was standing in front of me and he had his gun pointed at me."
Sheer panic swept over Tonia. She felt paralyzed.
Fighting back tears, she goes on. "I knew that he was going to shoot me, I just didn't know where he was going to shoot me, and I was so thankful when he lowered his gun because ya know I'm there with my son and my sister and I didn't want to die in front of them."
Her son, Jeremy, and sister, Ann, were walking just a few feet in front of her, initially unaware Tonia was even in trouble. That is, until a scream erupted deep within.
Her sister, Ann Robbins knew something was wrong.
"It wasn't like a scream where you had just spooked her yourself it was blood curdling scream and at the same time as I hear the scream, I see this young man at the front of my car," Ann recalls.
He was the second suspect in the armed robbery. Ann immediately began fumbling for her gun in the console of the car.
Ann goes on, "As I'm getting the gun out I felt somebody behind me and I was and I didn't have my hand on the trigger I just had my hand on the butt of the gun."
She's had this 22 for three decades and never had to use it for protection. That night, things were about to change.
"And in my heart, my heart just burned because I thought oh my god I'm going to have to kill somebody," Ann cries.
During the interview, WMBF News Anchor Heather Biance asked Ann if she realized that this moment could potentially be it?
She replied, "I knew I was dead. Ya know it was weird I had this feeling, this is it, but I also had this feeling that my sister was back there and whatever it took, I wasn't going to leave her. "
So she did the only thing she could do. She raised her gun like she practiced so many times before.
"I shot right over his head so if the bullet moved it wouldn't hit anybody and then I shot down the left side of his head."
Within seconds, both men disappeared into the night.
A year later the recovery continues.
Tonia pulls up her pant leg to show us the damage. "This is where the bullet went in from the angle he was pointing down. It went in here and this is where it came out."
Tonia's tibia, shattered. A rod is now in its place from her knee to her ankle. She's had surgery, therapy and wasn't able to work for nearly five months. The medical bills totaled almost $90,000, but between her insurance and a state run agency that helps victim's cover crime related costs, she has no financial burden.
Emotionally though for her and her sister, it's a much different story.
Heather: "Do things still take you back to that night?"
Ann: "Yes, all of the time when you go out you're constantly looking. You notice things you didn't know before."
A nagging feeling deep inside that makes them question every stranger they encounter. Despite the emotional and physical turmoil these vivacious sisters have been through, they press on. And amazingly, despite it all, are learning to forgive.
Ann says, "I used to tell my boys. When you're 80 years old and you're that old man looking in that mirror what kind of man are you going to be? What kind of life are you going to lead?"
And then Ann continues, speaking on the still unknown suspects in this crime, "I feel sorry for them because they don't have a life and this young man who came at me, he may never see his 25th birthday because of the life he lives."
The sisters urge everyone, day or night to always look around you, have your keys ready when you approach your car and look in the rearview and side mirrors before getting out of your cars when you park.
More than 380 days later this case is still unsolved. WMBF News spoke with the Myrtle Beach Police Department and they say no arrests have been made, meaning whoever is responsible for this crime, is still out there and could strike again.
And because no DNA or fingerprints were found at the crime scene, investigators are banking on someone coming forward with information that could turn this cold case around.
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